Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

With House Approval, Pre-K Pilot Proposal Heads To Cautious Senate

A student at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind., reads before nap time.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

A student at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus reads before nap time.

The Indiana House has approved legislation to create a preschool pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds — but the bill is likely to face an uphill battle as it goes to the Senate.

This is the second time the Indiana General Assembly has considered a proposal to provide preschool vouchers to students from families making up to 185 percent of the poverty level. Participating 4-year-olds would automatically become eligible for Indiana’s K-12 voucher program, a fact that doesn’t sit well with Democrats who support universal early childhood education.

But as the bill left the House Thursday, Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said that’s not a reason to reject the Republicans’ proposal.

“There’s a little continued concern about doubling down on the voucher methodology,” said Pelath as he lent his support to the bill. “But let us not stand in the way of fulfilling something our side of the aisle has talked about for many, many years, and that’s investment in early childhood education.”

Still, the bill is likely to face scrutiny in the Senate, where last session lawmakers scaled back a similar proposal, citing cost concerns. But House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, says he’s hopeful the measure can pass.

“We have made progress over the summer with some of the legislators in the Senate who have reservations about it, not all,” says Bosma. “It helps that the governor is on board.”

The pilot preschool program could cost an estimated $25 million.

Indiana Public Broadcasting reporter Brandon Smith contributed to this report.


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